What was missing from the previous post, about my return to LA, was how surreal it was. Antigua life and SoCal life are completely different, in nearly every way. And yet, it wasn’t culture shock that settled in almost immediately upon landing in Los Angeles. It was a disconnect with reality. LA felt familiar, as would be expected. But as I started doing the same exact things I had done before leaving (driving to see friends, walking around my neighborhood, hanging out at my parents’ house), it was both comfortable and bizarre at the same time. It’s hard to describe, but the best way I answered the question when people asked me what it was like to be back, was, “When I’m here in LA, the Antigua life seems like a dream, and when I’m there, LA seems like a dream.” Each place feels normal when I’m there and unreal when I’m not.
Anyway…while I was sad to leave friends and family behind, there was a calmness that returned when I landed back in Guatemala. Red-eyes are never fun, so while there was calmness, there was also a bit of disorientation borne of exhaustion. Jeffrey had been maintaining the sourdough starter, so he met me at the bakery and we sleep-walked through our typical Monday prep. As soon as he was gone, I collapsed!
Jeffrey spruces up the wall behind our main display area.
Picking up where I left off, the week featuring the launch of ice cream sandwiches and paninis was a decent one, but it ended with a very, very slow Sunday. So as we looked ahead to the following week (and the start of September), I felt that pushing my ice cream sandwich day to Sunday might help me boost sales.
Jeffrey purees the roasted strawberries for a new ice cream flavor.
Considering the sizable contingent of customers who opt for my vegan chocolate chip cookies and vegan brownies, I figured that the vegetarian (and vegan) panini would be an attractive addition to the menu. Like the chorizo sandwich, in which it’s pretty quick to put the operation together, I aimed for similar components for this panini.
It’s been about a month since my last post, and while business has been kind of slow, a lot has transpired in that time period. From a broad bakery standpoint, August-into-September was very quiet. Having never been in Antigua during this time of year, I didn’t know in advance that September is the deadest month of the year. From the boom of July, to a moderate pace in August, as I approached September, I could see what people were talking about.
So while the volume of sales wasn’t what I’d seen before, the relative quiet of the time of year allowed for us to innovate in the bakery and look ahead at expanding our menu and variety of offerings.
Close-up of the chorizo and mozzarella scone.
Readjusting to being alone again in the house took some time. But I had plenty to keep me busy, and focused on the week ahead. I was hoping that the lull from the weekend was just an aberration, and geared up for what I hoped was a return to busy days and lots of sales.
Decorations up in Parque Central for a local holiday.
Scoping out the internet situation.
Running a bakery basically means two things to me right now: working and sleeping. That’s it. Left to my own devices, that’s all I would do. Fortunately, I have friends in town and guests visiting who have allowed/prodded/cajoled me to get out and do more. And because of how exhausted I am at the end of each day and week, the blog has fallen by the wayside. However, I’ve managed to muster the energy to bring you all an update on what recent events at Canela Antigua have been like!
Sourdough in formation, resting before the final shaping.
As I write this post, I have just concluded the fourth week of the bakery’s existence. It’s been a tiring, exhilarating and delicious start. Like any retail business, it’s had its ebbs and flows. There are periods where no one comes in for an hour or two, and then we get a rush of people all at once. No way to predict it, no way to plan for it. You just have to be ready to drop whatever side project you’re doing and tend to the customers.
Between being open five days a week and using a sixth day to prep, there hasn’t been much time (or energy) for much else. I try to get outside when I can, but I’m often much more inclined to retire upstairs to the couch at the end of a long day on my feet.
Here’s a look at what weeks two, three and four brought:
Adding some herbs to my small outdoor garden.
The fact that I actually opened my own bakery last week is still very bizarre. It makes me think back to my previous career as a teacher. After volunteering in classrooms in college, and working as an assistant while getting my teaching certificate in grad school, I was always under someone else’s purview. As much free reign as I might be given, as much independence I may have earned, it was still always someone else’s classroom. When I finally became a real, honest-to-goodness teacher and had my very first class, it was unreal. “I’m the one the students go to first when they need something?” “I get to make all the decisions?” It took some getting used to.
Fast forward seventeen years, and there’s very little difference. I went to pastry school. I worked as a newbie in a bakery. I worked as a slightly more experienced baker at the next job, where I was given more respect and latitude. I got my first recipe on the menu (just like teaching my first lesson as an assistant). Eventually I even got to be part of the opening of a bakery, hiring staff, designing the schedule (just like student teaching). And now…now!…I actually have opened the doors of a bakery I created myself – although with plenty of input and assistance from others – and I still don’t quite believe it.